Ajmal spins Pakistan to victory
New Zealand, with a batting order more suited to drudgery than chasing down a daunting target, slumped to a 13-run defeat at the hands of Pakistan in their ICC World T20 match at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Full Scorecard: New Zealand v Pakistan
The Black Caps were chasing 178 for victory, but with off-spinner Saeed Ajmal producing all his fancy toys and taking 4-30, they finished on 164 for nine.
New Zealand were undone by their decision to bat Ross Taylor as low as number six and, even though he blasted 26 off 11 balls, by the time he came in he had been left with too much to do.
Brendon McCullum could not find the fluency of his previous innings - the highest ever in T20 internationals - and scored 32 off 31 balls, with four fours and a six.
As expected, it was Pakistan's spinners who undermined the New Zealand batting by taking wickets and restricting the run-rate. Apart from Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez was outstanding, conceding just 15 runs in four overs and Shahid Afridi broke the opening stand and took 1-30.
New Zealand made a solid start to their chase with openers Rob Nicol (33) and Kane Williamson (15) adding 53 in 6.4 overs before Nicol was bowled by Afridi due to poor shot selection.
An impatient Williamson was run out in the next over and New Zealand then promoted Daniel Vettori to number four in the order. The left-hander may have added 48 for the third wicket with McCullum, but they took until the 15th over to do it, admittedly in the face of some top-class spin bowling.
A brief flurry from Taylor, who hit three fours and a six, gave New Zealand a chance but their hopes died when the captain was run out trying to steal a second run to long-on, brothers Umar and Kamran Akmal pulling off a brilliant double-play.
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Pakistan's batsmen also continued their impressive form this year as they posted a convincing 177 for six in their 20 overs after being sent in to bat.
Their top-order flakiness seems to have been lost a long time ago as captain Hafeez and Imran Nazir (25 off 16) put on 47 in 5.4 overs.
Hafeez went on to score 43 from 38 balls, but the innings of the day came from Nasir Jamshed, who used smart footwork and wonderful wrists to blaze 56 off 35 balls, with two fours and four sixes.
The top-order had powered Pakistan to 105 for one after 11 overs and New Zealand did well to restrict them to just 72 more runs in the last nine overs.
Left-arm spinner Vettori did the most to peg Pakistan back, inducing Jamshed to hole out to a tumbling Nathan McCullum at long-on and bowling his last two overs for just nine runs to finish with1-23.
Tim Southee and Jacob Oram each took two wickets to further restrict the 2009 champions, but Umar Akmal (23 off 15) and Afridi (12 off six) provided a late boost to give Pakistan a match-winning score.
NEW ZEALAND: RJ Nicol, JEC Franklin, BB McCullum (wk), LRPL Taylor (capt), DL Vettori, JDP Oram, KS Williamson, NL McCullum, TG Southee, KD Mills, AF Milne
PAKISTAN: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal (wk), Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal